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Glasgow has experienced economic growth and development in recent years, bolstered by careful planning, a growing and young population, and business growth in high-tech and service sectors.

Launched in 2016, the current Economic Strategy is building on this success and aiming to make Glasgow the most productive major city economy in the UK by 2023. This can be achieved by creating the conditions for growth and supporting residents to take advantage of the opportunities this will create.

Within this framework, Glasgow looks to attract the right mix of business, productivity, innovation and investment to the city and building on its excellent infrastructure to be one of the most diverse and forward-thinking cities in Europe while being globally competitive in a number of sectors:

  • Creative Industries
  • Digital Technology
  • Engineering Design & Advanced Manufacturing
  • Finance & Business Services
  • Health & Life Sciences
  • Higher and Further Education
  • Low Carbon
  • Tourism & Events

Glasgow is at the centre of Scotland’s largest urban economy and is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. It stands to capitalise on strong economic growth and continued development of its varied business sectors.


In 2015, 606,340 people lived in Glasgow; this number is expected to reach 618,000 by 2024. Growth is projected to continue from that point at an even more accelerated rate. Glasgow is the only metropolitan area in Scotland and makes up a large percentage of the overall Scottish population. The greater Glasgow conurbation, according to the 2011 census, totalled around 2.3 million, accounting for more than 40% of the country’s entire population.

While some of Glasgow’s population growth is natural (births outpacing deaths) net migration accounts for a large part of the increase. The number of overseas migrants has shifted the ethnic makeup of the city resulting in a diverse, multi-lingual population. Additionally, the population is relatively young compared to the rest of the UK – over 70% of the population is working age.


Glasgow has improved its employment rate significantly, reaching its highest ever employment rate in 2016 of 67.3%. Glasgow’s Economic Strategy plans to maintain or exceed the city’s employment rate at the national Scottish average over the period 2017-2023. This will be achieved by taking advantage of underused talent in Glasgow and increasing the skills base.

There has been a steady increase in the number of jobs in Glasgow in each of the last 3 years and much of this growth comes from the ever-growing service sector, reflecting the overall shift in Glasgow’s economy in the past 25 years. Glasgow has moved away from a primarily production-based economy to a service-based one, with up to 84% of Glasgow’s job belonging to the service sector. Vast numbers of these service sector jobs are focused on professional services, such as finance, information technology, business services, public administration, health and education.

Skills and qualifications

Glasgow’s universities and colleges offer a wide range of programmes and courses to drive the city’s economic growth. More than 130,000 students from 135 countries study in Glasgow.

Glasgow is home to three of Scotland’s largest and most prestigious universities: University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University as well as the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Evidence from economic impact assessments on the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde demonstrate that for every £1 invested in each university, £8 is generated in GVA for the Scottish economy.

Glasgow’s three super-colleges are the largest in Scotland and are integral to the city’s pipeline of talent. They providing training in IT and business administration, hospitality and tourism related subjects, creative arts, and engineering and technology.

Glasgow has one of the most highly skilled and flexible workforces in Europe. 44.4% of the current working age population is educated to degree level or above. As the population has grown, this proportion with degree-level education has increased as well. So much so that, of the UK Core Cities, Glasgow has seen the 2nd highest increase in its degree-level population between 2009-2016.


Glasgow productivity levels are the 2nd highest among the UK Core Cities. A key strand of Glasgow’s economic strategy over the next 7 years is to achieve a significant increase in worker productivity by developing innovation, worker skills, boosting competition and attracting investment.

Increasing the numbers of businesses and thereby the numbers of actively employed people will be key to this. According to the latest figures, Glasgow produced £29.50 of GVA per hour worked and £47,513 of GVA per job filled in 2015.

>>For more information you can download Glasgow Economic Facts 2015-16 (PDF 5.7MB)

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